Timeline of Environmental Science

Timeline of
Environmental Science
Environmental issues have surfaced
throughout human history.
60,000 years ago-today
• Earliest evidence of fire to clear land in
• Deforestation continues to devastate
7,000 years ago
• Land, air and water pollution common
• Rome was notorious for sewage in the streets
Ancient sewer system
500 BC forward
• Soil conservation practiced except in China in
ancient times
• Lead poisoning by Romans who prepared their
wine with lead sweetened sugar (lead acetate)
Middle Ages and Renaissance
• Plague devastates Europe
but leads to the beginnings
of a public health system.
• Still deforestation, soil
erosion, water pollution
• Picture is woodcut of outhouse
opening directly into water
Era of Enlightenment 1750-1830
• Thomas Malthus predicts that
as populations soar, resources
will become scarce or run out
• Movement to clean up
• New technologies create new
• Woodcut of victims of typhus
Industrial Revolution 1830-1890
• Living conditions in
urban areas horrible
• Smog episodes begin
killing residents of large
cities like London.
• Conservation of
wilderness areas begins
• Giant Sequoia “Mother of the
Forest” tree cut down started
national forest preservation
Progressive Era 1890-1920
• Reform was the common concern.
Reform of working conditions, slum
housing, food adulteration, sanitation,
drinking water, polluting industries
and more.
• Social activism, women’s clubs, Sierra
Club begin
• Young Teddy Roosevelt leads the way in conserving
large tracts of land for “wise use”
Roaring 20’s and depression
• Leaded gasoline
becomes standard for
vehicles despite fight
• Civilian Conservation
Corps founded by FDR
World War II and the 50’s
• Only the government can
secure the long-term public
interest. Private industry
can not
• Increasing C02 buildup
• Deadly smog episodes in London
The Sixties 1960-1970
• Rachel Carson’s book
Silent Spring
• The tragedy of the
commons (as unrestricted
grazing could turn a
common pasture into a
wasteland, unregulated
industry could do the
same to the planet. )
The Seventies 1970-1980
• A decade of awakening and cleanup begins with
the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency
• Air pollution is cut back dramatically through use
of catalytic converters on new cars
• Water pollution is greatly decreased through a
massive sewage treatment expansion program …
• Toxic chemicals become more
• Nuclear power safety is increasingly
suspect after the Three Mile Island
• Energy crisis in oil supply leads to
reversals of some restrictions on
refinery and oil pollution
• Greenpeace protecting whales
The Eighties 1980-1990
• Disasters -the Chernobyl
nuclear reactor disaster in
Ukraine; and the
Challenger shuttle and
Exxon Valdez oil spills in
the U.S.
• Ozone depletion from
The Nineties 1990-2000
• Persian Gulf War creates
environmental disaster with
thousands of burning oil wells.
• Political standoff - A Gallup
poll finds 76 percent of
Americans call themselves
2000 til now
• Global climate change
becomes a pressing priority
• Coal mine disasters continue to
haunt the US and China.
• Toxic Waste dumping in
developing nations continues
to be an urgent problem.
• Tsunami and earthquake
almost destroys nuclear power
plant in Japan
The Future